This Barrie company puts new meaning on getting ‘stoned’

The headlines of this newspaper have recently announced closings of two Barrie manufacturing facilities. Jobs lost. Reasons cited. Re-employment plans in place. Industrial adjustment people on site. It’s news, sad news, and for sure many lives are affected.

But much more frequently we have in this city fabulous success stories about people who took a skill, added sinew and courage and sweat and built an enterprise. DiPietra Design is one of them.

For 20 years Jeremy and Christine Buck and a few very loyal employees operated from a home based operation near Gilford. From that tiny space, they used old techniques and built carefully a business in the supply of granite, marble, stone and slate for many purposes.

Alternative counters have seen an explosion in popularity. Floors, reception desks, columns, building cladding, back splashes, door and window sills, fireplaces and tables make a definite statement when crafted from a stone product.

I think it takes an enormous leap of faith for a couple like Christine and Jeremy Buck to leave the manageable comfort of a steady business in 4000 square feet in Gilford and explode into much larger facilities of 15,000 square feet at Saunders and Welham Rd. Finding this building and making enormous changes in the manufacturing end have occupied the better part of a year for the Bucks but they’re used to taking their time and doing it right.

“There’s no point building a fancy showroom out front if we don’t have state of the art manufacturing in the back to deliver what we say we will,” says Christine as she shows the plans for retrofitting the building.

As I walked through this operation this week, I was fascinated to see photographs of incredible depths of marble and granite quarries in Italy, Brazil, China and India.

The folks at Di Pietra (Italian for Stone) use brokers to purchase their slabs of product, all carefully numbered so that when laid down the beautiful veins of colour and shape flow logically from one slab to another. Jeremy recently took delivery of a CNC (computerized numeric control) machine that methodically cuts a variety of finish edges on stone, ready for installation.

The CAD operators work from on-site templates, developing mylar drawings to be superimposed on a slab so they come out perfectly shaped for the location they’re heading into.

Di Pietra works with designers, architects, builders, kitchen manufacturers and walk-in customers to supply the stone and make sure it’s cut and fitted and finished with old world standards. The company has been built on word of mouth referral and articles in magazines like Canada Homes, Better Homes and Gardens have certainly helped. They’ve installed projects in England, Caribbean, Russia, in embassies, and in buildings from Nova Scotia to British Columbia.

After doing time in the spec room at Page & Steele Architects, Jeremy apprenticed in the early 80’s as a marble mechanic on both commercial and residential projects, trained to fabricate and install stone using traditional craftsman methods.

He’s held on to this love of the job while balancing the demands of growing the company. It takes a huge financial commitment to make a growth move like this and the Bucks are to be congratulated for their initiative. Surrounded by huge slabs of granite, labelled with colour titles like Verve and Bufferly and Flash Blue and Red Dragon, Jeremy has trained his craftsmen so the 15 employees operate as a team. They’ve used Georgian College’s CAD training program, and also achieved training on edging and interior cuts on the new CNC machine to be able to decrease production and delivery time for customers.

There’s so much more to running the business… doing quotes for many projects in corporate settings, living up to their environmental commitment despite lack of standards. Di Pietra has installed stone dust machines and continues to put emphasis on the ‘back end’ of the business. WMHIS consultants are helping with safety standards.

Jeremy looks at it this way. “I don’t have 15 people working here. I have 15 families who depend on the success of this business.”

Armed with orders to prove a long list of work, Jeremy went to the Business Development Bank of Canada to help with the growth of this operation. Now that the back end has neared completion, the team is turning its attention to the front end… show rooms, sales offices.

Christine and Jeremy Buck are an example of people investing in our community, building their business here while serving an international customer base. This is a good news story and a company we can be excited for.

Well done!

Thanks, Christine. Thanks, Jeremy. And thanks, Scott Millson-Taylor, for the tour!